The German Research Companion

If the value of a book were measured by weight or volume, then The German Research Companion is a steal. Desk reference or the “Bible of German family history,” this book may be called many things, but perhaps the most accurate description is the most complete guide to German research written in the English language. At 8.5″ x 5.5″ and 706 pages, this books covers 100s of topic relevant to searching one’s German ancestors.

Shirley J. Riemer, with the help of co-authors Roger P. Minert and Jennifer A. Anderson added a wealth of knowledge in this 2010 third edition. Added to this edition were email addresses, recently published books and other aids, website addresses (some with directions for managing the sites), as well as useful information and comments regarding the use of many resources. While technically not a “how-to” book, this guide is as full of information and helpful hints as anyone could expect on a single topic in family history.

Topic by topic, this book thoroughly examines tools, records and other resources, provides help and ideas, and places to look for more information. The reader need not know German to search their German ancestry. This book goes a long way to helping the researcher understand the records they find. Vocabularies and script references help make deciphering documents in German easier to read. As the book progresses through a topic it drills deeper than what may be obvious by the table of contents. For example,  section 2 includes coverage for “the search for the German immigrant’s place of origin.” There are subsections to this area of study, including “Selected Sources for ‘Place of Origin’ Clues.” Taking the breakdown further, there are six additional subsections, labeled A to F:

  1. Potential clues close to the researcher’s home or in the researcher’s family
  2. Searches in area of immigrant’s U.S. settlement town and county
  3. Records in immigrant’s settlement state
  4. Other sources in the United States
  5. Searches in Germany and German records
  6. Creative search techniques

Collectively this section offers 96 useful ideas and places to search for an ancestor’s place of origin. As complete as this book is, there is probably little else a researcher needs to get started in their search for their German Ancestors.

Order a copy of The German Research Companion from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: M0025, Price: $27.44.


Table of Contents

Section 1: German Lands, Past and Present

  • Germany’s political and jurisdictional organizations
  • The three empires
  • Populations, capitals, and geography
  • The courts and the constitution
  • The rulers, the flag, and the other colonies
  • The major turning points and markers of German history

Section 2: The Tools, Contacts and Resources

  • Resources for utilizing the Family History Library and its branches
  • Uses of the Family History Library Catalog for German research
  • Credentialed researchers, societies, home-area sources
  • The search for the German immigrant’s place of origin
  • Communicating with Germany
  • Sending euro abroad
  • Village photographs and conference audiotapes
  • Choosing between Du and Sie
  • German organizations and institutes
  • Frequently used resources

Section 3: Emigration and Immigration

  • Immigration laws in the United States
  • Emigration laws in Germany
  • Naturalization records
  • the immigration process and Ellis Island
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Immigration laws
  • Passport applications
  • German immigrant aid societies
  • Pennsylvania societies, archives and libraries
  • Basic resources for researching Germans from Russia, the Danube Swabians, the Wends (Sorbs) and Germans in Pennsylvania, Alsace-Lorraine, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sudetenland, Bukovina, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Galicia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Silesia, and Switzerland

Section 4: United States Resources

  • U.S. cemeteries an burial records
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • Social Security history and research
  • U.S. Railroad and Retirement Board
  • U.S. vital records
  • The WPA
  • The U.S. Census
  • Land and property resources
  • The Homestead Act
  • U.S. libraries and publishers
  • American military records
  • Germans who fought in the American Civil War
  • Hessian soldier research
  • The Turnverein in America, and other fraternal organization

Section 5: Language and Vocabularies

  • History and characteristics of the German alphabet and language
  • German dialects and high, middle, and low German
  • The old German script
  • Abbreviations in German and Latin
  • German genealogy vocabulary
  • Occupations, trades and titles in German and Latin
  • Medical terms, illnesses, and causes of death, in German
  • German family relationships vocabulary
  • Christening, marriages and deaths vocabularies
  • Latin genealogy vocabulary
  • Roman numerals
  • Latin vocabularies for calendar dates, tombstone expressions, and old cities of Europe
  • French genealogy vocabulary
  • Fraktur
  • Yiddish

Section 6: German Resources

  • German church and civil registration records
  • Church inventories
  • Gazetteers Types of German records
  • German censuses
  • Citizen books
  • The German privacy law
  • City registers
  • German cemeteries
  • Abbreviations keys to Meyers Orts-und Verkehrslexikon and Mullers grosses deutsches Ortsbuch
  • Reverse alphabetical place name indexes
  • Maps
  • German phonetics
  • Indexes of German surnames
  • Periodicals
  • Place names
  • Researchers
  • Queries in German publications
  • Village lineage books
  • Postal code directories
  • The Ahnenpass
  • Telephone directories
  • Dictionaries

Section 7: Archives

  • German archive terminologies
  • German federal and state archives
  • County archives
  • Ecclesiastical archives and organizations
  • Central office for genealogy in Leipzig
  • The Berlin Document Center
  • The “Gauck” files
  • Specialized archives
  • Recommendations for working in a German archive
  • Genealogy related organizations in Germany
  • Historical societies in Germany

Section 8: Life in Our Ancestors’ Times

  • Names and naming patterns
  • Patronymic names
  • Given names of Germanic and foreign origin
  • “Name days”
  • Old measurements
  • Monetary units
  • Records of guilds and tradesmen
  • Calendars through the ages
  • The perpetual calendar
  • Feast days
  • Holidays and observances
  • History and customs of Christmas
  • The church in modern Germany
  • Religions: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and pietist, with resources
  • German universities and academic degrees
  • Heraldry
  • German nobility
  • Military churchbooks, cemeteries, archives, and records
  • German expellees following World War II
  • German prisoners of war In America

Section 9: Newspapers, Libraries, Museums, and Other Information

  • City directories and manuscript collections
  • German and German-American newspapers
  • Special interest publications
  • Emigration records in newspapers
  • Sister City arrangements
  • German museums, libraries, publishers
  • American universities in Germany
  • U.S. embassy offices in Germany
  • Academic and cultural organizations
  • Cooking measurements and ingredients
  • Fold dress (Trachten)
  • Greetings in German
  • Formalities of letter-writing
  • Telephone cards





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